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Last updated : Nov 2009
Spain Business
Spain Business Overview -
Spain Economy

Under the Franco regime, up until 1975, the Spanish economy developed almost in isolation, protected from foreign competition by tight import controls and high tariffs, and gradually evolved from an essentially agrarian economy to an industrial one. Spain joined the (then) European Community in 1986.

The transition, was expected to be very difficult, passed off remarkably well and currently the Spanish economy now ranks eighth in the world by output. Despite the decline of many of its traditional industries, such as steel ,shipbuilding and textiles, Spain achieved the highest average growth rate in the Community during the 1980s and a steady performance throughout the 1990s. This was largely due to the growth of its service sector, which now accounts for two-thirds of economic output.

The only significant legacy of structural weaknesses in the Spanish economy which has not been fully tackled is unemployment, which remains stubbornly high at eleven per cent of the workforce in 2004. However, other economic indicators, such as interest rates and budget deficit, are within the limits which allowed Spain to join the European Monetary Union during 1999. In common with most of its EU partners, the Spanish economy has slowed somewhat since 2000, although annual GDP growth increased during 2004 to three per cent.

The agricultural sector produces cereals, citrus fruit, vegetables, olive oil and wine. The processed foods industry has also rapidly expanded.

The fishing fleet, although reduced from its peak of a few years ago, remains one of the world’s largest. The relative importance of the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors has declined over the last decade and now accounts for less than four per cent of GDP.

Energy requirements are met by indigenous coal and natural gas, imported oil, mainly from north Africa, and a sizeable nuclear power programme. In the manufacturing sector, the decline of the older industries has been offset by rapid expansion in chemicals, electronics, information technology and industrial design.

Spain has become an important producer of motor vehicles, this industry alone accounts for five per cent of GDP and 80 per cent of all output is exported. In the service sector, Spain has a vast tourism industry mainly servicing visitors from northern Europe. In 2002, this brought an estimated $40 billion (about seven per cent of GDP) into the economy. Financial services, media, transport and telecommunications have also undergone substantial growth. The EU countries, Japan and the USA are the country’s main trading partners.

Business Etiquette

Businesspeople are generally expected to dress smartly. Although English is widely spoken, an interest in Spanish and an effort on the part of the visitor to speak some words will be appreciated. Business cards are exchanged frequently as a matter of courtesy and appointments should always be made. Punctuality is important.

Office hours

Tend to vary considerably. Businesspeople are advised to check before making calls.

Commercial Information

The following organisations can offer advice: Consejo Superior de Cámaras de Comercio, Industria y Navegación de España, C/Ribera del Loira 12, 28042 Madrid (telephone number: (90) 210 0096; fax number: (92) 528 0007; e-mail:, or Instituo Español de Comercio Exterior (ICEX), 2nd Floor, 66 Chiltern Street, London W1U 4LS, UK (telephone number: (020) 7467 2330; fax number: (020) 7487 5586; e-mail:


Many large towns have dedicated convention centres in addition to the facilities provided by hotels. Seating capacity ranges from 540 in Jaca to 4200 in Palma de Mallorca and Madrid can seat up to 2650 persons.

Further details can be obtained from the Spain Convention Bureau (FEMP), Calle Nuncio 8, 28005 Madrid (telephone number: (91) 364 3700; fax number: (91) 365 5482; e-mail:, or Oficina de Congresos de Madrid, Calle Mayor 69, 28013 Madrid (telephone number: (91) 588 2900; fax number: (91) 588 2930; e-mail:; or from the Spanish Tourist Office (see Contact Addresses section).